Library and Information Services, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Friday, 30 May 2014

Scottish Country Dancing - if Jean Milligan only knew!


The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society was founded in 1923 by Jean Milligan, the first dance teacher at Jordanhill teacher training college, and Mrs Stewart of Fasnacloich.  (As it happens, 'Whittaker's' mother-in-law Peggy McAulay (nee Fife) was Jean Milligan's first pianist at Jordanhill during her time as a student there ...)

If Jean Milligan only knew!  Her society has grown and prospered, and spawned branches worldwide.  The Whittaker Library has dozens and dozens of Scottish country dance tune-books, from St Andrews, Edinburgh, Carlisle and the Borders, Leeds, Birmingham, even New Zealand!  We haven't got every book of dance tunes ever published, but it felt like it today when we were updating our catalogue!  Old ones and newer collections - they're all represented.

Take a look here.

What makes a Scottish country dance tune? Some are from old fiddle tune-books.  Some have been written in a similar style by modern Scots or other Scottish country dance musicians, worldwide.  Does it have to be Scottish to be a Scottish country dance tune, then?  We would say, not necessarily!

Here's another mind-boggling thought: just imagine if you totted up the hours that our books have spent being played at ceilidhs worldwide, since they were published.  And then, how many dancers have been accompanied by pianists playing from those books ... not to mention, how many cups of teas were served between dances ...!

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